'When Hope Is Gone': Tributes Pour in for Journalist Shah Marai, Killed in Kabul Bombing

At least 25 people were killed in a twin suicide bombing in the Afghan capital Kabul, with the second blast targeting journalists gathered to report on the first.

The dead include Shah Marai, news agency AFP's chief photographer in Afghanistan, and several other journalists. According to the BBC, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq news agency.

The first attacker detonated his bomb on a motorcycle in the Shashdarak district of Kabul in the midst of morning rush hour. The blasts were close to the headquarters of the Afghan intelligence services.

The second explosion occurred around 15 minutes later as journalists and bystanders gathered at the scene. Shashdarak district is also home to the Afghan defense ministry and a NATO compound, the BBC said.

Kabul bomb
Afghan security forces at the site of the second blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, on April 30. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Police spokesman Kabul Hashmat Stanikzai told AFP, "The bomber disguised himself as a journalist and detonated himself among the crowd." A spokesperson for the Afghan health ministry said the attacks killed at least 25 people and wounded 45 others.

Radio Free Europe said two of its journalists, Abadullah Hananzai and Moharram Durrani, were among the dead.

In October 2016, Marai wrote a report for AFP titled "When Hope Is Gone," detailing the bleak period following the "golden years" immediately after the American invasion. U.S. intervention brought with it "great hope," he said, but "fifteen years later, that hope has vanished and life seems to be even harder than before."

Afghan picture Shah Marai
Marai's photographs painted a vivid and troubling picture of Afghanistan. Here, one of his photos from December 2016 shows a man through broken glass after a Taliban attack killed eight people in Kabul. SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

Marai began working for the agency as a driver in 1995, the agency said, the same year the Taliban seized power. In 1998 he began taking photographs, documenting the turmoil growing out of the conflict that has raged since the 1978 coup.

He recalled having to be extremely discreet working under the Taliban, which forbids photographs of all living things. Marai had to take pictures with a small camera hidden in a scarf wrapped around his hand.

A statement from AFP Global News Director Michele Leridon on the death of Shah Marai, AFP's chief photographer in Kabul (Part 2 of 2) pic.twitter.com/LGPBayOE58

— AFP News Agency (@AFP) April 30, 2018

Marai was still taking photographs when U.S. troops overthrew the Taliban in 2001, as the American-led coalition assembled after 9/11 swept through the country. He described the day after the Taliban fled the capital, recalling, "It was like people were coming out from the shadows into the light of life again." The atmosphere of secrecy and ruthless control of journalists and foreigners was gone. "Kabul became Journalistan," Marai said. "The office was never empty."

He became a full-time photographer in 2002 and rose through the ranks to become the Kabul bureau's chief photojournalist. But by 2006, he said, "The party was over." The Taliban were back and launching attacks across the country. "I have never felt life to have so little prospects and I don't see a way out," Marai wrote in 2016. "It's a time of anxiety."

Tributes to the veteran journalist are pouring in from Afghanistan and abroad. Fellow Afghan photojournalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Massoud Hossaini tweeted, "It's too hard to lose a great friend like him." Veteran British reporter John Simpson added his condolences and expressed his "deep sorrow."

Deep sorrow at news of death of Shah Marai, AFP chief photographer in Kabul - killed in this morning's second explosion in the city, carefully timed to kill first aiders and journalists like Shah. Afghanistan needs people with his courage.

— John Simpson (@JohnSimpsonNews) April 30, 2018

On days like this, truth sucks. Truth hurts.
Yes it's true, and confirmed. Our friend, the great photographer Shah Marai, is among the dead of the second Kabul explosion this morning.
He was doing his job, like he had over two decades.

— Mujib Mashal (@MujMash) April 30, 2018

AFP published a tribute to Marai, praising the "charismatic and courageous" journalist. "His powerful photographs are testament to the unimaginable violence he witnessed over the years," the statement read, "as well as the fragile moments of beauty and joy in a country pummelled by decades of war." Marai is survived by his two wives and six children, including a newborn daughter.